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Toulouse end Magners League stranglehold

Guinness PRO12 Editor

22 May 2010


Toulouse ended the Magners League hold on the Heineken Cup when they claimed an unequalled fourth European crown after a nail-biting 21-19 triumph over Biarritz Olympique in Paris on Saturday afternoon.

The last two European Champions have come from the Magners League but it wasn’t to be this season as the French capital witnesses an all-French affair.

Munster secured their second Heineken Cup crown with victory over Biarritz in 2008, two years after their first win over Toulouse and a season before Leinster’s hard-fought success against Leicester last time out.

But while both Irish giants reached the semi-final stages in 2010, with the Ospreys making the last eight, the Magners League will have to relinquish the European crown for 12 months at least.

Toulouse now have two more Heineken Cup wins than nearest rivals Leicester Tigers and Munster after David Skrela and Florian Fritz kicked them to glory at the Stade de France.

Skrela slotted three penalties and two drop goals while Fritz added a penalty and a drop as Toulouse ended a five-year drought at the continent’s top table.

Australian centre Karmichael Hunt scored the game’s only try with just minutes remaining as a fine attacking move raised hopes of a memorable Biarritz comeback but it wasn’t to be for courageous skipper Jerome Thion and his brave Basque outfit.

Toulouse led 12-9 at the half-time break, and although Dimitri Yachvili levelled the scores with a fourth successful penalty early in the second period, the 1996, 2003 and 2005 Champions pulled nine points clear through Skrela’s booming boot.

Noves’ star-studded side looked increasingly comfortable as the game progressed, mainly due to a definite superiority at scrum time and an ability to win quick ball at the breakdown, but Hunt’s intervention threatened to change things with 73 minutes on the clock.

Replacement scrum-half Valentin Courrent cut the gap to just two points with a straightforward conversion and suddenly Biarritz looked as though they might finally avenge their 2006 final defeat to Munster in Cardiff.

But although Iain Balshaw and American flyer Takudzwa Ngwenya suddenly started attacking from deep as Biarritz threw everything at their more experienced opponents, Toulouse held firm to celebrate a well-deserved victory – their third from three attempts in all-French Heineken Cup Finals.